Okay, let’s dive in now, because we’ve been discussing over the past few Sundays. We’ve explored how we’re meant to come together as a community in the Kingdom of God. Each week, we’ve focused on the various purposes that guide our role in building this community. Today, we’ll discuss how God calls us to work together. Now, folks, I’d like to emphasize something important. Some of us prefer to work alone, but God didn’t intend for us to be alone in this journey. Some might say, ‘Well, I’m not really into that.’ And you know, looking at today’s world, don’t you think there are many self-centered people out there? It seems like everything revolves around them. However, God has a plan, and He wants to involve us in it. If we pay attention, we’ll realize that it’s not about us. It’s not about me, Kevin White. I’m aware of that, and I try to remind myself of it every day. It’s not about Kevin White. It’s about God’s Almighty Kingdom. And guess what? It’s not about you either. Let me share a story. I served as the executive director of the Nevada Baptist Convention for 8 and a half years. During one of my initial meetings with a group of pastors, they were as numerous as the crowd here today. As they were curious about me, I’ll share a lesson I learned from that experience with Barbara; it’s the ‘what not to say’ lesson.
Don’t say this as a new executive director addressing a room of pastors. Okay, let’s learn from my mistakes. Among the first things I shared with them, they asked, ‘Could you share some of your thoughts?’ So, here’s what I said first: ‘I’m not interested in your opinions.’ Yes. Let me tell you about the reaction I received from that group of pastors. It seemed like the worst possible outcome was upon me, almost like the demons of hell were after me. At that point, I realized I needed to pause and clarify. I had a second part to that sentence. And you shouldn’t be concerned about my opinion either. What’s important is for us to listen, to come together and hear from God.
Every time you utilize a skill or talent that God has given you, any kind of service you offer, the Bible calls that ministry. Our objective here at New Life is to help you progress from being a regular participant to discovering your specific ministry, and then fulfilling that calling from God. Our purpose is not to go at it alone. We’re not meant to be solely focused on ourselves.
We are placed on this Earth to make a positive impact in the Kingdom of God. Our purpose here is to give and to contribute meaningfully with our lives. This is why Romans chapter 12 mentions offering our lives as a dedicated gift. We tell the Lord, ‘I want to give something back. Here’s my life, heal it. Take and use it according to Your plan.’ God desires us to receive something in return as well. Unfortunately, we live in a world with a different view, where many think, ‘What’s in it for me? What can I gain?’ Isn’t that how our world often operates? This mindset even extends to politics today. People tend to vote for whoever promises the most personal benefit. This attitude appears in various aspects of life. I want to emphasize that this external influence shouldn’t seep into and affect the church. There’s one essential focus: the Kingdom of God. It should not be about self-interest or ‘What do I get out of it?’ Instead, it must center around the unity of God’s community coming together and supporting one another.
Another misconception is that only pastors are ministers. However, this perspective isn’t aligned with the teachings of the Bible.
Do you grasp that each one of you is a minister, regardless of the specific role or work God has you doing? For instance, Tina contributes in the children’s ministry, which itself is a form of ministry. Thus, by engaging in ministry work, you also become a minister. I serve as a pastor, which is distinct. It’s my designated role that God has called me to fulfill. However, all of us are called to some form of ministry, right? Each of us has a ministry role or way of serving.
Now, you might wonder, ‘Can’t I serve God without dealing with other people?’ Well, the truth is, that’s not feasible. Some Christians may express, ‘I enjoy the church, but I’m not fond of the people.’ Oops, that approach won’t suffice. Jesus sacrificed himself for people, so we’re also called to show love and care for people, just as Jesus did. Can I just directly serve God on my own? Not quite. The only direct way to serve God is to express our love for Him and offer praises. Yet, when it comes to actively doing ministry, the way we truly minister to God is by ministering to each other. When I provide support or assistance to you, Sharon, I am, in essence, ministering to God. How come? Because the presence of Jesus Christ resides within all of you.
When you engage in ministry, you’re essentially offering service to God. You’re working for the master. Now, let’s explore what Paul wrote to the early church regarding working together. Last week, we studied Philippians chapter one, and this week, we’ll focus on Philippians chapter 2. Let’s start with verse 1 and see what Paul wants to convey. Pay attention to the beauty of these words: ‘So, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, then complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.’ Listen to this carefully—tell me, doesn’t our world today need to hear and embrace this verse? ‘Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.
Can I hear an ‘amen’ in the Lord’s house today? Our world is really selfish, filled with people who are self-centered, thinking only about what they can get for themselves. It’s all about ‘me, me, me.’ Do you all agree with that? Well, that kind of attitude shouldn’t find its way into this sacred place. It’s like we need one of those symbols with a red line crossing it out—something that’s not allowed here. So, let’s not display it, folks. Don’t even think about bringing it in. Our walls won’t hold any posters endorsing such behavior. Okay, now let’s find the right page. It got shuffled around by the wind. So, let me read that verse to you again. It’s Verse 3. It says, ‘Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, consider others more important than yourselves.’ The words are truly moving, and they can bring tears to my eyes. Imagine, Barbara, if this principle was practiced in our church every single day. The Holy Spirit would have the freedom to move among us. Now, moving on to Verse 4. Everybody who—come on, let’s say it together—everybody who? In case you had the idea that this message is only directed at a particular group, let me clear that up. No, it’s for everyone. Alright? What does everyone need to do? Everyone needs to focus on not just their own concerns, but also on the concerns of others. It’s really remarkable. Come on, everyone, if this doesn’t amaze you, I understand you might have heard this before, but today, it should genuinely amaze us. It should strike us and make us realize how often I’ve misunderstood it in the past. How I’ve acted like the Lone Ranger, doing things on my own.
Why can’t we go it alone as ‘Lone Rangers’? Why do we need others in our lives? Why is it important to serve God by serving His people directly? Alright, let’s tackle these questions. I’m glad you brought this up, and I’m here to provide the answers today.
Firstly, reason number one: we can’t go it alone because we’re part of a family. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? We’re like a family, and we should value and appreciate that. Every Sunday should feel like a grand family gathering. There shouldn’t be a need for Steve to encourage you to show kindness to someone—it should come naturally. It should be ongoing. We should be asking ourselves, ‘Whom can I show love to today?’ instead of waiting for others to show love to us. Do you follow what I’m saying? It’s not centered around you, and it’s not centered around me. It’s centered around the Kingdom of God. I find Ephesians quite inspiring. If we move a bit ahead to verse 19, it says, ‘So then you are no longer outsiders or strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s family.’
So, God established the church as His way to spread the Gospel of Jesus—the message of salvation—to the world. He decided that the church would be the means to do that, and we’re meant to be part of it. So, listen carefully. I believe that being a member of a church aligns with the teachings of the Bible. It might challenge the prevailing trend in today’s world, where people hesitate to commit to anything—jobs, marriages, education—commitment can be tough for many. But let me tell you, church membership reveals who is genuinely committed and ready to be there. We’re like a family. I particularly appreciate what’s written in Corinthians about the body of Christ. We’re called the body of Christ, and God positions us where He sees fit. We should approach it not by asking, ‘What does the church offer me?’ Instead, we should inquire, ‘God, where do you want me?’ Now, let me clarify, when I mention ‘this church,’ I mean as long as it’s a church that believes in the Bible, in Jesus Christ, with no additions or subtractions. If it aligns with that, I wholeheartedly say ‘amen.’ It’s not about becoming larger than this room; it’s about expanding the Kingdom of God in heaven. Your priority should be following what God instructs.
Now, I talked about this last week, and I want to reiterate it now. If you were to approach me and say, ‘God wants me to go sell flowers with the Hare Krishna in downtown Portland,’ I would need to have a serious conversation with you. Alright? We’re supposed to be members, and not being a member goes against what God’s word tells us. Now, let me ask you something. Do you have anyone in your family who makes you wonder, ‘Why are they even part of the family?’ Can I admit that? It’s a bit late to take it back now, since we’re online. But anyway, you know, one of my favorite Christmas movies on TV is ‘Christmas Vacation.’ That’s because I have a cousin Eddie in my family. I think everyone has their own version of a cousin Eddie. And if you can’t think of one in your family, then you might just be the cousin Eddie of your family, I have to say. The truth is, we all have people like that. Come on.
Has anyone ever thought while growing up, ‘Lord, seriously? You chose to place me in this family?’ I mean, come on, don’t act like you’ve never had that thought about your own family. I’m here to call it out because I’ve had that thought, and I’m sure even my own children have thought it. They might have said, ‘Out of all the dads out there, I end up with this one?’ I’m certain my kids have said that about me. But here’s what I want to emphasize, folks: you don’t get to pick your family, right? But you do have an obligation to love them, correct? They’re your family, no matter how confusing or wild they might be. Even though my family can be a mix of peculiarities and craziness, don’t come and say to me, ‘Well, Pastor, my family is totally messed up.’ The reality is, every family has its quirks. And despite the dysfunction, we need to safeguard and stand up for our family.
My dear brothers and sisters, you know, I might get into a little trouble for this, but let me tell you, back in the day, my siblings and I used to have some pretty serious fights. Anyone else here have brothers or sisters and can relate? Okay, I see some honest hands, and I truly appreciate your honesty. Bless you for that. We used to tussle quite a bit. And let me tell you, nobody dared to mess with any of us. We fought amongst ourselves, but heaven help anyone who messed with one of us when we were together.
I remember one time when my brother had lost his hair due to cancer treatment, and some kids at the pool teased him about it. He was out swimming, and my sister and I were nearby, keeping an eye on him. We noticed those boys teasing him by rubbing his head. In that moment, my sister and I exchanged a look, and without hesitation, we both moved in to defend our brother. We confronted those boys with determination—no one was going to mess with our brother, Rusty. As you can imagine, it got a bit chaotic, and our brother was actually yelling at us to stop because those boys were his friends. He had told them they could touch his head. The whole end of the pool stared at us. Needless to say, we got into some trouble for that, but that’s a story for another time.
My point is, everyone, we truly belong to God. And you know what? He desires us to learn how to collaborate effectively. Let me share something with you. A family that comes together and serves together—I yearn for that. Looking at my own wife, I love her deeply. We’ve encountered tough times within the family, facing illnesses and other challenges. And I’m so thankful for her presence because when we join forces, we can overcome. God wants us to establish connections during this journey that will endure for eternity.
Folks, please, allow me to emphasize this—I don’t have any other way to put it. I feel a deep passion about this. When I stand before you and say that I consider myself the most fortunate pastor in the world, I genuinely mean it. You are like family to me, and I eagerly anticipate seeing you. I’m excited to hear about your lives, your experiences. I understand that sometimes you might feel overwhelmed, like you can’t handle another thing. Believe me, I share that sentiment. I encountered something similar just this week.
I have an uncle who’s currently facing what we believe to be dementia. He’s encountering difficulties, and at the same time, my mom is dealing with her own struggles. This uncle is my dad’s brother, and his older sister, who’s 83 years old and lives in Longview, reached out to me. They said, ‘Kevin, we don’t have anyone else. We hate to burden you, but we need help.’ I found myself thinking, ‘Oh my goodness.’ I might have to go and assist him, as he can’t even manage to get to work and back. He’s getting lost even in Albuquerque, and he’s been left alone.
Folks, have you ever found yourself in situations like that, where you wonder, ‘Lord, are You serious? Can I handle one more thing?’ You’ve been in that place, right? I know some of you have. Sheila, you and I have talked about this. You’ve been there, too. You know what I mean. Lord, really? Seriously? Have any of you prayed that kind of prayer? Honestly, I have.
So, I walked into today, and let me tell you, God brought family into my life. Shawn Sprecker, whom I usually like, approached me and I began sharing with him about this heavy situation and everything else. You know what he had the nerve to say? Not even close to being sensitive. He looked at me and said, ‘You know, God will never give you more than you can handle.’ I felt like throwing him out of the front door. Can you relate? I just stood there, looking at him, and in my heart, I knew he was right. He’s right, isn’t he? Sometimes, we need our family to remind us of the truths that God provides.
Another point to consider is, why shouldn’t we be Lone Rangers? Let me shift gears here. The truth is, we rely on each other, whether we’re ready to admit it or not. I need you, and guess what? You need me. So, it’s not a matter of people saying, ‘I’m a hero, I can handle everything on my own.’ Let me tell you what can happen if you decide to go it alone—you might find yourself struggling. At times, you could feel lost. There will be moments when you need someone to lend you a hand, someone to lift your spirits. Remember the words, ‘if there’s any encouragement, if there’s any fellowship in the spirit, if there’s any affection, if there’s any mercy’? God didn’t suggest we go through life alone. His message is about caring for one another, showing love and consideration. Let me share a quote I really like: ‘God wants us to collaborate because none of us truly has everything perfectly figured out.
God desires us to collaborate because none of us truly have everything perfectly figured out. Can anyone here honestly say they’ve got it all figured out? I sure can’t, folks. I need you. Some of you have strengths, while others have weaknesses, and we require both of those qualities in our lives. We all possess areas where we’re not so strong and areas where we shine. God has evenly distributed these traits. The Bible even compares the church to a body—the body of Christ. It explains that within this body, there are different roles. God has placed each of us where He intends us to be. Some of you might be like the hand within the body of Christ. Others could be like the foot, the eye, the ear, or even the nose. Most of us might even want to be the mouth. That’s a bit amusing, right? Regardless, we should consider others as more significant. It’s not just about focusing on ourselves. It’s not about you or me. Isn’t our world missing this point? The truth is, we’re all interconnected as parts of a greater whole. Does one hand need another hand? Absolutely. Do feet need toes? Without a doubt. Imagine trying to walk without them. It’s like that old song goes, ‘The foot bone’s connected to the leg bone.’ Everything is interconnected, and this intricate design is all part of God’s plan.
That’s why we’re encouraged to be part of a church. We’re meant to be the body of Christ, and essentially, we’re meant to be a family. And you know, this body only functions well when its parts work together, right? Do you ever struggle to fall asleep because your mind won’t stop racing? You try to tell your brain, ‘Come on, give it a rest.’ It’s like you want your entire body to cooperate. I’ve noticed that as I get older, my body doesn’t cooperate as smoothly as it used to. Just being honest with you. Can I get an ‘Amen’ in the room? Thank you. I need to hear some agreement, because it’s true. As one senior once told me, growing old isn’t easy. Pastor, Amen to that.
Take a look at Romans 12:5. In a similar vein, just as we have many individuals, we’re one body in Christ, each of us being connected to the others. I’m part of you, do you follow? It’s not only like recognizing Sheila, but it’s acknowledging that I’m intertwined with you. And you’re interlinked with me, just as we’re all interlinked with everyone else here. Each ministry that God calls you to is vital and holds significance. No one ministry surpasses another in importance. Can you all understand what I’m conveying? The people who greet others at the door are equally essential as the preschool teachers we have. The effort you put into working with the children holds great weight and meaning. Those engaged with the youth, the musicians, the camera operators, the sound technicians—whatever role it might be—are all playing a crucial part. It’s like the body coming together, working for one purpose—the Kingdom of God. If we’re doing anything for any other reason, it’s time to stop. Our focus has to be on God.
As we focus on today’s ministry, let’s remember that it’s about serving each other. So, why shouldn’t we be Lone Rangers? Why shouldn’t we try to handle everything on our own? Why is it crucial to be part of a church? Let me break it down. First, we’re like a family. Second, we depend on each other. And third, we achieve more when we collaborate. If you attempt to manage everything solo, it’s going to take a while. We’re more productive when we work together. This isn’t a new concept; we all know it. Teamwork means multiple individuals contributing. Back when I played football in high school, my coach used to say the usual coach things—’There’s no ‘I’ in team.’ But he also had a saying that he associated with me, the ‘Kevin White phrase.’ He would often remind us, ‘Everybody’s got a job, just do your job.’ You see, I would handle my responsibilities and then take it upon myself to direct others in what they should be doing. However, he would tell me to stay in my lane, just do my part. If we all do that, whether it’s on the field—be it basketball, baseball, football, soccer—or in other settings like the military, it applies. Speaking of which, do we have any veterans here today? Could you please raise your hands?
Let’s all praise God for our veterans. Amen! Let’s give them a round of applause. It’s fantastic to have our veterans here. Mark, let me tell you, a military that doesn’t function as a team won’t achieve victory. Every person has a specific role, and every role holds importance.
Folks, it’s important to realize that we can accomplish more when each of us is following God’s calling. Once God has called you to something, it’s essential to allow people to engage fully in their ministries. There’s something remarkable about this because even though we are individuals, the Bible talks about us having the ‘priesthood of believers.’ You know what that means? It means God can communicate with you just as effectively as He can with me. Consequently, I work with Steven, and he’ll tell you that I don’t micromanage him. I ask him, ‘Steve, what is God saying to you about this? Share your insights with me.’ We discuss things and decide on the direction. This approach applies to all the other ministries we have here. What’s God saying? What’s He revealing? What’s He guiding us toward? Because that’s how we come together in unity. It’s not about us individually; it’s not to make us look good or boost our egos. We gather together, and through our collective efforts, we accomplish more. Just as Ecclesiastes mentions, two people working together are more effective than one person working alone.
We rely on each other. By the way, when there’s a group of us working on a task, what initially might seem daunting or impossible becomes more manageable. When we’re accompanied by others, doesn’t it feel that way? Imagine looking at a big task and thinking, ‘How will I ever finish this?’ I had a similar thought this morning, Sean, when I was considering how to tackle something. Then, in the first service, I shared about it, and right before I even reached the donut counter, a lady approached me. She said, ‘Just so you know, I have connections and training that can provide assistance for those dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia.’ Now, tell me that’s not God’s doing. It’s God reminding me that I’m not alone, that I have a family.
See, God won’t burden me with more than I can handle. He ensures that my family is there. We’re a family, aren’t we? Church, let’s acknowledge it. We’re like a family. We’re more than just a group; we’re a family. I love all of you, and I’m proud of you, like I am of my family. Well, almost everyone, except Sean. He managed to get under my skin this morning. Just kidding, Sean didn’t actually upset me.
Folks, this is precisely what the world is seeking. Don’t you agree? The world yearns for a place where they can discover genuine love and acceptance. Now, before you feel the need to email me, let’s be clear: God loves everyone just the way they are. But His love doesn’t stop there; He loves them enough not to let them remain unchanged. We should embody that love. Together, we can achieve so much more.
Consider this for a moment. God has plans for you that you might not even have anticipated. I like what’s mentioned in First Corinthians, where it talks about different roles – one person plants, another waters, and yet another reaps the harvest, which is done by the Lord. You might have some cherished memories from a team you were part of in the past. Maybe it wasn’t the military; it could be something like the camaraderie portrayed in ‘Band of Brothers.’ Military individuals have told me about the lasting connections they formed during their service – friendships that span a lifetime. Even folks who were on other teams often speak of the enduring bonds they created. I’m here to tell you that I’m forming lifelong connections with all of you. My heart truly cares for each one of you.
What’s so special about being part of a team? Well, in a team, you become a true unit. It brings you closer together and enhances your ability to achieve. And don’t forget, being part of a team also makes the experience more enjoyable. So, how can we create a strong team? First and foremost, we need trust. We need to believe that God can work through someone and that He’s ultimately in control. Trust is like the emotional adhesive that holds people together. Without trust, there’s no real teamwork. Proverbs 26 wisely points out that many people may claim to be loyal, but finding a truly trustworthy person can be challenging. This rings true, and it can sometimes make us cynical. I admit I’ve been cynical too, and I’ve needed to reflect on that before God. However, today, I’m not focusing on whether we can find trustworthy individuals elsewhere. What I want to ask is this: Can you be the trustworthy one for others? Can the other members of this community, this family, rely on you?
So, how can we become trustworthy individuals? Here are two key aspects. Firstly, consistency matters. Luke 16:10 reminds us that someone who proves reliable in small matters can also be trusted with more significant responsibilities. Being consistent means being dependable. For instance, if I know that you’re always there when needed, it builds trust. Just like John, I can count on you to support and stand by me. This notion ties into putting others’ needs first – being someone others can rely on. Can we trust you? Are you consistently showing love to one another?
The second aspect revolves around confidentiality. When people confide in you and expect their words to remain private, it’s crucial to honor that trust. Proverbs 11:13 explains that a gossip betrays a confidence, whereas a trustworthy person keeps secrets. It’s important to recognize that we often discuss things we shouldn’t. This even applies to our church community. We need to address the topic of gossip. We’ve probably never labeled it as an addiction before, but it’s a real issue. Please note, I’m not pointing fingers – you haven’t come to me with gossip. However, many of us do engage in gossip, often disguising it as spiritual concern or prayer requests. This kind of behavior contradicts the idea of putting others first.
Sadly, technology has amplified gossip’s reach, with people sharing it on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, leading to severe consequences. We need to exercise caution because the Bible emphasizes considering others more than ourselves. It explicitly advises against indulging in gossip. If someone tries to gossip about someone else to you, the Bible advises us to steer clear and not engage. Remember, true trustworthiness involves both consistency and confidentiality.
To build trust, we must be consistent and keep things confidential. As the praise team prepares to lead us, another important aspect is being close to one another. I don’t mean sitting physically close; I mean being emotionally connected. Do you understand what I’m saying? It’s about forming strong bonds. I really like that verse: “A friend loves at all times.” Have you ever faced tough times and learned who your true friends are? I’ve experienced that, and it’s heartbreaking when someone I thought was a close friend lets me down. This means that sometimes you, Brandon, might stumble and fall into difficulties. We all go through tough times, right, brother? In those moments, I want to be there for you, and I want you to be there for me. We need to support each other even when we’re struggling. We must stop abandoning those who are hurting within our church community.
To foster trust, we need to be close to one another. I find myself trusting those who’ve stood by me during my darkest hours. There are individuals in my life I trust wholeheartedly because they’ve consistently been there for me, kept my confidences, and stayed close to me. Building trust takes time, but it’s a vital aspect because we’re not just a group – we’re a family, a unified body, a team. Now, let’s
revisit the text from earlier. Carl, can you please display the text again? Listen to Paul’s beautiful words in light of what I’ve shared. “If there’s any encouragement in Christ, any consolation of love, any fellowship with the Spirit, any affection and mercy, make my joy complete by adopting this mindset.” What mindset? It’s all about God. It’s not my way, your way, or New Life’s way. It’s all about God. Having the same love – whose love? Jesus Christ’s love. United in spirit, working together for one purpose. Remarkable, isn’t it? Don’t act out of selfish motives or vain conceit. Instead, in humility, prioritize others above yourself. Consider the interests of others, not just your own. I can’t stress enough how beautifully clear the apostle Paul emphasizes this concept of community. Can we agree, Bruce? It can’t get more communal than that.
God desires us to be a part of His community. Ever wondered how the world would be if they tried that? I’ll mention the 60s generation, where they attempted this with communes and flower power, although, sorry, Barbara, that might hit close to home. But those efforts fell short because they were human-driven. There was always someone wanting control, telling others what to do. However, based on this teaching, if we’re connected to Christ, we’re inspired to make a positive impact in our surrounding community. We’ll become a shining light right where we are. I can’t express it more eloquently than Paul did. I truly desire that. Don’t you? Let’s stand and reflect on this together.